Get to know Tara Waters, Partner & Chief Digital Officer at Ashurst, as we anticipate the Future Lawyer UK. In this interview, Tara shares her excitement for specific sessions and networking opportunities, emphasising the crucial role of collaboration within the legal industry. Delve into Tara's unique perspectives on why conferences like this are vital for advancing the legal sector. From forecasting the future of legal innovation to addressing resistance and fostering cross-disciplinary collaboration, Tara Waters provides unparalleled insights.
Join us in this engaging conversation as we navigate the frontiers of legal innovation with Tara Waters, a trailblazer in her role at Ashurst.
1- With Future Lawyer UK coming up, which aspects of the event are you most excited about? Are there specific sessions, discussions, or networking opportunities that you are looking forward to participating in or learning from, and from your perspective, why do you believe conferences focused on legal innovation, like this one, are crucial for the advancement of the industry?
I've always been a proponent of intra-industry sharing and collaboration. The challenges we face in legal remain too big for one person or organisation to solve; we need to lean on and support each other, and (where appropriate) work together, to propel the entire industry forward. Events like Future Lawyer Week are important to bring us all together and provide opportunities to share and collaborate. I always find it interesting to hear different perspectives from across the industry—from what is working well and what isn't to how people are approaching leading change within their own organisations—and to catch-up with people on a more personal level.
2 - Looking ahead, what do you envision as the future of legal innovation? Are there emerging technologies or cultural shifts that you believe will have a profound impact on the legal industry?
It's difficult not to mention AI and generative AI in particular, but the future of the industry is definitely not about just one technology. I am hopeful that this latest AI innovation will be a catalyst that helps the industry to recognise that digital-enablement isn't about particular tools but finding the easily adoptable ways to improve the ways we work and the ways we think about approaching work. The onus is on us to support this discovery and to leave behind old tactics for new solutions.
3 - How can innovation leaders encourage collaboration with professionals from other fields, such as technology, design, or business, to foster a more holistic approach to legal transformation?
Those who know me well or have heard me speaking on the industry circuit will know that I generally hate putting the word "legal" in front of words like technology, and I try not to use the words 'innovation' and 'transformation' to describe what me and my team do. I speak a lot with digital and technology leaders in other industries and we all share the same challenges and the same desires. Yes, there are industry-specific nuances within legal, but there are many more similarities with other industries than we might initially think. It is critical that we take the lessons learned from everywhere, and not just within legal, to inform our own approaches. This can be achieved in a number of ways, and I'd love to see more industries engage with us to share stories and find ways to collaborate. I support LawTechUK, which has a mandate from the government to help with this, and there seem to be a growing number of cross-pollination opportunities coming across my desk.
4 - What metrics or indicators do you find most valuable in assessing the success and effectiveness of newly implemented technology within legal organisations?
Measures of success need to be specific to the initiative and the specific benefits that are to be delivered. I think a lot about the difference between leading and lagging indicators—and especially the need to take an experience-led approach. First and foremost your people need to "feel" an improvement, whether or not you have the hard metrics yet to evidence it. We find engagement-based feedback most useful at the start, but naturally always work towards those capturing lagging metrics, like measures of efficiency and impact on profitability, or in the dream scenario being able to point to new revenue or growth opportunities derived as a result.
5 - How do you suggest law firms can address and overcome resistance to innovation, both at an individual and organisational level?
I think the 'innovation agenda' (or whatever your firm wants to call it) has to be baked into the firm strategy, and backed fully and authentically from the top. It cannot be seen as optional or ancillary to the core mission. Leadership in this space requires both vision and capability to execute—having the right team with the right skills to build up a successful track record and trust within the organisation is also essential. Building trust does take time, especially with lawyers, but I have seen people cut through that quickly due to the experience they bring to their roles. And, finally, the people entrusted with leading the agenda need tenacity and determination. This is a genuinely difficult space to be in and there are rarely shortcuts to take.